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Aggie Pilot's Remains Buried At Arlington National Cemetery

Scot Walker '90 October 10, 2017 8:52 AM updated: October 17, 2017 10:08 AM

A Texas A&M graduate and U.S. Air Force pilot was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 5, 2017, almost 47 years after he died in a plane crash in Vietnam. 

Lt. Marvin S. Arthington '68 was commanding a cargo plane that crashed during bad weather on Nov. 27, 1970. The 24-year-old died along with three other servicemen. Initially listed as Missing In Action, their status was changed to Killed In Action on Dec. 24, 1970. Some of their remains were recovered at the crash site but could not be individually identified with the technology of the time, so the remains were buried together in a joint grave at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

This past spring, the U.S. Air Force recovered and tested human remains that had been brought to Hawaii by a Vietnamese refugee in 1985. The remains were positively identified as belonging to Marvin Arthington by comparing DNA from the remains to DNA from Arthington's brother and their mother.

When Arthington died, he left behind his wife, Suzann,  and an 18-month-old daughter, Andrea, in Tyler, Texas. His daughter posted on Facebook shortly after the family learned of the discovery of additional remains.

"This has been the most amazing and overwhelming Memorial Day weekend," Andrea Maris wrote. "His new remains will be buried in the fall at Arlington with full military honors and his own headstone. Thank you to the military for the continued testing of those lost in battle and to give families 100% closure no matter how many decades pass! And thank you to those who serve in our military, and those who have given their lives, to defend our freedom!!"

Arthington and his daugther are pictured at right. "He just is 'Top Gun' looking, a handsome man," she told WFAA-TV. "I just love that picture."

Marvin Arthington was buried with full military honors Oct. 5 at Arlington National Cemetery with family members, friends and fellow Aggies in attendance. Among those who attended: Jim Thompson '68, Mike Hewlett '68, Dudley Bourne '68, and Frank Holder '68, who were all in Squadron 4 ("Four Aces") with Arthington; David Stevens '68, Bill Shipp '68, Dan Wimberly '68, Bob Huff '68, and Mike Beggs '68, all out of Squadron 1; Bill Morgan '68 from Company A-1; Danny Barr '68 of Squadron 11. 

Above: First Wing staff in 1968, with Arthington out front.

Thompson, who commanded Squadron 4 for the Class of 1968's senior year, called Arthington "not only a good friend but a great credit to Texas A&M University and our nation." Thompson and several other Classmates, relatives and friends met the plane carrying Arthington's remains at DFW Airport on Oct. 4 and accompanied him to Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C., prior to the funeral at Arlington.

Thompson presented Arthington's daughter with a Texas A&M flag that was flown over the quadrangle and signed by all the current Squadron 4 cadets. He also gave her a Squadron 4 guidon and a plaque denoting an endowed scholarship established in Marvin Arthington's name by Squadron 4 alumni.

Dick Owen '72 was also among the Aggie contingent at Arthington's funeral. Owen joined Squadron 4 as a fish in September 1968, so he missed Arthington by a few months. But although they were not in the unit at the same time, Owen attended the funeral because, he said, "We need to welcome home our MIAs whenever we can."

Owen reported that Harley-riding veterans provided road and intersection guard duties and stayed as a group to the side during Arthington's services. He said several Vietnamese attended, some in the uniform of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam or associated groups. Younger Vietnamese in U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force uniforms also attended, he said. 

More of Owen's observations from Arlington National Cemetery:

"At the transfer from the hearse to the caisson, the cortege paused for a tree top flyover by a couple of Huey helicopters.

"The cortege from the transfer location had a rider on white horse leading the horse-drawn caisson accompanied by the Air Force Honor Guard. The 30-piece band, a 30-piece rifle company, and a Color Guard attended the transfer and led the way to the internment site. A POW/MIA flag-bearer walked behind the caisson and stood near the grave site. 

"A pre-positioned rifle squad was on a nearby hillside while the band, rifle company and Color Guard stood on another hillside, opposite the firing squad, with the family and the casket in the shallow valley between. Then, after pallbearers marched away, the solo flag bearer came and stood at the head of the coffin and dipped the black & white POW/MIA flag over the coffin during Taps, the 21-gun salute and other music. The chaplain, an Air Force brigadier general, spoke briefly. The coffin flag was formally presented to the Arthington family by the Air Force.

"The day was mostly cloudy but during the playing of Taps, the clouds parted slightly and a ray of sunlight illuminated the flag draped coffin and the Arthington family seated near by. When Taps last echoed, the clouds closed."

Arthington was born Oct. 22, 1946, at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., to Charles and Helen Arthington. He graduated from Burkburnett High School, near Wichita Falls, then enrolled at Texas A&M. At A&M, Arthington was in Squadron 4 ("Four Aces") and was executive officer of 1st Wing. According to the Aggieland yearbook, his nickname was Goose. he received the Vice Commandant's Award, and he was a member of the Wichita Falls Hometown Club. He graduated in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in finance, which at the time was a degree program within the College of Liberal Arts.

Above: Arthington (second from right) as a graduating senior in 1968. At far right is Jim Thompson. In the front row are (from left) Mike Hewlett, Dudley Bourne, and Frank Holder.

After graduation, he went to pilot training in Laredo, and then was sent to Vietnam, beginning his tour on Dec. 12, 1969. He was stationed at Saigon and flew C-123 transport planes for the 19th Tactical Airlift Squadron of the 315th Tactical Airlift Wing of the 7th Air Force. His last flight crashed into a mountain just outside Nha Trang. He was memorialized in a service on Jan. 3, 1971, at First United Methodist Church in Burkburnett, and then his remains were buried jointly in Section 37 at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Aggies In Vietnam

Marvin Arthington is the second Aggie KIA from Vietnam to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery this year. The remains of USAF pilot Col. William Campbell ’52 were flown in May to Washington, D.C., and interred with those of his widow at Arlington National Cemetery. The Association of Former Students chronicled Col. Campbell's final flight in a series of stories and a short film, all accessible via tx.ag/ColonelCampbell

In 2010, the remains of another Aggie missing for decades after the Vietnam War, Capt. Clyde Campbell ’66, were identified; he was interred at Arlington in 2012 in a private burial.

Five more Aggies killed/missing in Vietnam and Laos have been identified and returned since 1999.

Based on reports, 11 Aggies from the Vietnam War have not yet been found:

  • Lt. Col. Walter S. Van Cleave ’48
  • Maj. William O. Fuller ’57
  • Lt. Cmdr. Robert D. Johnson ’58
  • Capt. Dennis L. Graham ’63
  • Capt. George L. Hubler '64
  • Lt. Henry G. Mundt II ’64
  • Capt. Murray L. Wortham ’65
  • Col. Robert F. Wilke ’65
  • Lt. Neal C. Ward ’67
  • Lt. John R. Baldridge Jr. ’68
  • Capt. Ronald W. Forrester ’69

Earlier in 2017, the name of Sgt. John T. Whitson ’66 was added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall after his eligibility for inscription on the Wall was re-evaluated. Whitson passed away in April 1969 in a Fort Hood hospital, where he had been transferred after being hospitalized with an illness in Vietnam. Read more at tx.ag/Whitson66VMW.

Four Aggies are known to have been held as POWs in the Vietnam War. Released on Feb. 12, 1973, were Capt. James Edwin Ray ’63 (shot down in 1966) and Maj. Robert Norlan Daughtrey ’52 (shot down in 1965); Daughtrey passed away in 2005. Released on March 4, 1973, were Capt. Alton Benno Meyer ’60 (shot down in 1967) and Capt. John Charles Blevins ’61 (shot down in 1966). The names are courtesy of Capt. Meyer. 



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